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Title: Dunoon  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Firth of Clyde, Clan Lamont, Transport in Scotland, John McAslan, Sydney MacEwan
Collection: Dunoon, Post Towns in the Pa Postcode Area, Towns in Argyll and Bute
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Scottish Gaelic: Dùn Omhain [1]
Scots: Dunoon

Dunoon, looking north from Castle Hill towards Hunters Quay. The Victorian pier is to the right and the Queen's Hall is to the left
Dunoon is located in Argyll and Bute
 Dunoon shown within Argyll and Bute
Population 8,251 [2] (2001 census)

est. 8,310[3] (2006),

excluding Sandbank
OS grid reference
   – Edinburgh  82.1 miles (132.1 km) 
   – London  434 miles (698 km) 
Council area Argyll and Bute
Lieutenancy area Argyll and Bute
Country Scotland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town DUNOON
Postcode district PA23
Dialling code 01369
Police Scottish
Fire Scottish
Ambulance Scottish
EU Parliament Scotland
UK Parliament Argyll and Bute
Scottish Parliament Argyll and Bute
List of places

Dunoon (Scottish Gaelic: Dùn Omhain) is a town situated on the Cowal Peninsula in Argyll and Bute, Scotland. It sits on the Firth of Clyde to the south of Holy Loch and to the west of Gourock.


Ruins of Dunoon Castle, 1830 engraving by William Miller after W. Brown

Dunoon Pier originated in 1835;[4] however, the current structure was built in 1895 (now derelict).[4] Prior to the late 1960s, fleets of paddle steamers brought holidaymakers doon the watter from Glasgow to it and numerous other piers on the Clyde Estuary. Until June 2011 the pier was used daily by Caledonian MacBrayne, who ran a regular car-ferry service to Gourock and by the PS Waverley, the last surviving seagoing paddle steamer.

Overlooking the breakwater is a large statue of Robert Burns' love Highland Mary, also known as Bonny Mary O' Argyll, which is located on Castle Hill, just below the remains of the 12th-Century Dunoon Castle. Very little remains of the castle, which would originally have belonged to the Lamont family but became a royal castle with the Earls of Argyll (Campbells) as hereditary keepers, paying a nominal rent of a single red rose to the sovereign. In earlier times, Mary, Queen of Scots stayed at the castle circa 1563 and granted several charters during her visit. The castle was destroyed during the rebellion in 1685.

In the spring of 2005, a new breakwater was built just to the south of the Victorian Pier. As well as protecting the Victorian Pier from storm surges, a new linkspan was also installed alongside the breakwater. This was to allow the berthing and loading of ro-ro ferries instead of the side-loading ferries that used to serve the Victorian built pier. A tendering competition to serve the new linkspan between two interested parties, namely Caledonian MacBrayne and local operator Western Ferries, failed when both parties withdrew from the tendering process. In June 2011, the outcome of a renewed tendering process saw a passenger-only ferry service (Argyll Ferries, owned by Caledonian MacBrayne) using the breakwater for berthing. The PS Waverley also berths at the breakwater when sailing on the Firth of Clyde during the summer season.


Dunoon Pier in 1978
The PS Waverley leaves Dunoon Pier to sail up the Firth of Clyde

Dunoon is accessible by direct land and sea routes. Indirectly by Rail at Gourock.


The town lies towards the southern end of the A815 road. At its northernmost point, near Cairndow, this road joins the A83 and provides access to the town by road from the East Loch Lomond / Glasgow and from the North Inverary / Oban and from the West Campbeltown.


There are two ferry operators who provide services from Gourock to Dunoon.

Local company Western Ferries carries motor vehicles and foot passengers between McInroy's Point and Hunters Quay, while David MacBrayne Ltd subsidiary, Argyll Ferries, runs the public service route between Gourock Pier to Dunoon Breakwater. This is a foot passenger-only service.


At Gourock Pier, a First ScotRail train service provides access to the National Rail Network via the Inverclyde Line at Glasgow Central Station.


Public transport within Dunoon and the surrounding area is provided under Government subsidy by bus and coach operator West Coast Motors.

West Coast Motors' 486 service provides a regular return journey from Dunoon town centre to Inveraray, where it connects with a Scottish Citylink service onward to Campbeltown, Oban, Glasgow and points in-between.

McGill's Bus Services operate service 907, a frequent coach service from Dunoon town centre to Glasgow Buchanan bus station. The service travels aboard the Western Ferries crossing and operates via Greenock and Braehead Shopping Centre.[5]


Dunoon has hosted the National Mòd a number of times - 1930, 1950, 1968, 1994, 2000, 2006 and 2012.[6]

Tourist attractions

Cowal Highland Gathering

The Cowal Highland Gathering attracts contestants and spectators from all over the world. It is held annually over the final weekend in August

Queen's Hall

The Queen's Hall is the town's major multi-function hall complex. Situated opposite the head of the pier and built in 1958, the building houses four function suites and a large main hall. The main hall houses a full working stage with professional sound and lighting equipment, and in recent years it has attracted popular acts such as Pink Floyd,[7] Blur, the Saw Doctors, David Gray. Morrissey, the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, Primal Scream[8] and comedians Kevin Bridges, Bill Bailey and Roy Chubby Brown among others.

Benmore Botanic Garden

The arboretum, part of Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Garden, is situated 7 miles (11 km) north of the town, just before Loch Eck. The garden, formerly a private garden for the Younger family, is now open to the public. Its 60 hectares (150 acres) feature some of the tallest trees in Britain, including an avenue of Giant Redwoods, some of which are over 37 metres (120 ft) high.

Puck's Glen

Puck's Glen is a popular short walk in the region. A tumbling burn, criss-crossed by bridges, is enclosed by rocky walls heavily hung with mosses and overshadowed by dense trees. The walk has clear, waymarked paths. The Glen is named after Puck, Oberon's servant from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Castle House Museum

Castle Toward

Castle Toward was built in 1820 and formerly owned by the Lamont clan, is 6.5 miles (10.5 km) south of the town. Now owned by Argyll and Bute Council.


As with the rest of the British Isles, Dunoon experiences a maritime climate with cool summers and mild winters. It is an exceptionally wet part of the country, particularly so for a place near sea level, with annual average rainfall totals nearing 2,400 mm (94 in) per year. The closest MetOffice weather station is at Benmore Botanic Gardens, around 7 miles (11 km) north of the town centre.

Recorded temperature extremes since 1960 range from 29.6 °C (85.3 °F) during July 1983[9] to as low as −13.9 °C (7.0 °F) during January 1982.[10]

Climate data for Benmore Botanic Gardens 12m asl, 1971-2000, extremes 1960- (Weather station 7 miles (11 km) to the North of Dunoon)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 14.4
Average high °C (°F) 6.5
Average low °C (°F) 1.0
Record low °C (°F) −13.9
Average precipitation mm (inches) 298.76
Source: Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute/KNMI[11]

Holy Loch

Holy Loch seen across the Firth of Clyde with Dunoon on the left

As the Cold War intensified, Holy Loch became internationally famous when in 1961 the U.S. Navy submarine tender USS Proteus (AS-19) brought Polaris ballistic missiles, nuclear submarines and Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament protesters to the Firth of Clyde at nearby Sandbank, and Dunoon provided shore facilities. Holy Loch was, for 30 years, the home port of US Navy Submarine Squadron 14. In 1991, the Holy Loch base was deemed unnecessary following the demise of the Soviet Union and subsequently withdrawn. The last submarine tender to be based there, the USS Simon Lake, left Holy Loch in March 1992, leading to a major and continuing downturn in the local economy. In May 2012, Dunoon and Campbeltown were jointly named as the most vulnerable rural places in Scotland to a downturn in a report by the Scottish Agricultural College. The "vulnarability index" ranked 90 Scottish locations according to factors associated with economic and social change.[12][13]

The US Navy base was the subject of the 1988 film Down Where The Buffalo Go, starring Harvey Keitel. Many of the scenes were shot around Dunoon and the navy base itself.

Holy Loch was also the location of the boat yard Alexander Robertsons, builders of the America's Cup challenger Sceptre, a 65-foot, 17-tonne yacht designed by David Boyd.


Dunoon Stadium during the 2008 Cowal Highland Gathering. In view is the larger of the stadium's two grandstands. Dunoon town centre, to the south, is in view.

Dunoon Stadium

The town's sporting arena is Dunoon Stadium, which is located in the north of the town, near Dunoon Grammar School. When it hosted football matches, it had the largest capacity of any amateur ground in Scotland. Its main use nowadays is as the focal point of the Cowal Highland Gathering. Motor cycle dirt track racing (or speedway) was staged at the stadium on 18 June 1932 as part of the annual Dunoon and Cowal Agricultural Show. A demonstration event had been staged in May 1932.

Swimming Pool (Riverside Swim and Health Centre)

The pool is near the centre of Dunoon and next to the Clyde. It consists of a teaching pool and a main pool which is 25m long. There is also a water flume.

Swamp Soccer

The UK national championships in swamp football were held in Dunoon in 2006 and 2007.[14][15] For 2008 they were held in nearby Strachur.[16]

Cowal Rugby Club

Cowal Rugby Club is the home of rugby in the Cowal Peninsula in Scotland. Formed in 1976 the club reached its peak in 2008 with its first league victory in the Scottish hydro Electric Western Regional League West Division 2.[17]


Dunoon is home to 2 amateur football clubs, Dunoon Amateurs and Dunoon Athletic. These teams play matches at Dunoon Stadium and Dunoon Grammar School.


Castle Tennis Club is the name of the tennis club in Dunoon. Situated in the town's Castle Gardens the club has 4 courts, 2 of these are concrete and 2 are all-weather with floodlights. The club used to have 2 blase courts but these were replaced with the all-weather courts some time ago. The clubhouse plays hosts to social events such as quiz and pool and darts nights.



Dunoon's local newspaper, published weekly on Fridays, is the Dunoon Observer and Argyllshire Standard. There is an online edition at

Local radio

In March 2010, Dunoon Community Radio was launched.[18] Programming is broadcast from the Argyll Business Centre.[19]


Dunoon is served by Cowal Community Hospital,[20] which is run by NHS Highland. The hospital provides a 24-hour accident and emergency department along with a maternity unit, palliative care hospice, dental surgery, and one general healthcare ward providing 10 beds.

Ambulance cover is provided by the Scottish Ambulance Service. The Emergency Medical Retrieval Service encompasses Dunoon within its catchment area, enabling rapid access to the skills of a consultant in emergency or intensive-care medicine, as well as facilitating transfers to larger, better-equipped city hospitals.

Notable people

Laudervale, a residence of Sir Harry Lauder (now demolished)

Possibly Dunoon's most famous resident was Sir Harry Lauder (1870–1950), whose mansion, Laudervale, stood just south of Dunoon on Bullwood Road. After a fire, which burnt over half of it, it stood ruinous until c. 1980 when it and the stable blocks were demolished. Much of the grounds were subsequently sold for housing development. The development there today preserves the Laudervale name.

Conservative Cabinet minister Virginia Bottomley (Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone) was born in Dunoon, as were former Manchester United player and QPR manager Stewart Houston, actor Sylvester McCoy,[21][22] Tom Wisniewski of the punk band MxPx and Lyn-Z, artist and bass player for the rock group Mindless Self Indulgence.[23]

Neil MacFarlane, a professional footballer who reached the 2008 Scottish Cup Final with Queen of the South, was born in the town.

MT Carney, co-founder of British nail salon chain Nails inc. and former President of Marketing for Walt Disney Studios Worldwide, was born in the town.

Local connection

Peter Dorschel, who was born in East Germany, briefly rented a house in Dunoon in April 1967. This provided him with a view of the activities in the Holy Loch Polaris submarine base that caused his imprisonment for espionage.[24]

Oscar nominated Actress Julianne Moore has connections to Dunoon, as her mother is originally from the town.[25] Moore still has family in the area.[26]

Grant Morrison, the writer of Batman and Superman comic books, moved from his hometown of Glasgow to a renovated mansion just outside of Dunoon,[27] and spends part of the year in the town and part in Los Angeles.[28]

Dunoon Grammar School

Dunoon Grammar School was founded in 1641.[29] It has many notable former pupils, including the NATO), Brian Wilson and the Reverend Donald Caskie, also known as the Tartan Pimpernel.

In popular culture

In music

In the late 1960s, it was the subject of a song entitled "Why Don't They Come Back to Dunoon?" by The Humblebums. This was a less-than-flattering ditty, mourning the declining tourist trade in the town. "There was a competition in a Glasgow newspaper," Billy Connolly once said, in a short interjection during a 1969 performance of the song. "The first prize was a week in Dunoon, and the second prize was a fortnight in Dunoon."[30]

In 2014, Damon Albarn revealed that the inspiration for his 2013 song "The Selfish Giant" came from Blur's visit to Dunoon in 1995 and a view he had of the Holy Loch. "It was a beautiful misty evening,” he remembers.[31] "There was a single submarine in the loch – why it was there I don’t know. I had a very strong image of the loch and submarines and walking down the main drag in Dunoon after the gig, going to someone’s house for a party, and a song came out of it.” The song includes the line "walking down Argyll Street when the evening colours call".[31] Albarn also stated: "Now every time I sing "The Selfish Giant" I go back to that night in Dunoon, which was a really great night, a fantastic night." When asked if he would consider playing solo in Scotland, he replied: "I’d love to. Maybe Dunoon? Then I can walk down Argyll Street again."[31]


There are many churches in Dunoon and surrounding areas.

  • St Munn's Parish Church
  • Cowal Baptist Church[32]
  • Kirn Parish Church
  • Holy Trinity Epicostal Church
  • Strone & Ardentinny Church
  • Dunoon Baptist Church Centre
  • St John’s Church
  • High Kirk
  • Kingdom Hall Of Jehovah's Witnesses
  • The Free Church


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  6. ^ List of Mod's places for each year on Sabhal Mòr Ostaig website
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  24. ^ (subscription required)
  25. ^
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  30. ^ Connolly, Billy: Transatlantic Years, 2001
  31. ^ a b c "Damon Albarn on how Dunoon inspired debut album" - The Scotsman, 26 April 2014
  32. ^

External links

  • Local website and webcam
  • Dunoon and Cowal tourism website
  • Dunoon Community Radio
  • Dunoon, Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba ~ Gaelic Place-names of Scotland
  • National Library of Scotland: SCOTTISH SCREEN ARCHIVE (selection of archive films about Dunoon)
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